Jerry Lewis 03/16/1926-08/20/2017

JL My Friend Irma 1949 poster.jpgJL My Friend Irma 1949.gifJL My Friend Irma Goes West 1950JL At War With the Army 1950JL Thats My Boy 1951JL The Stooge 1952.jpgJL Sailor Beware 1952.jpgJL Jumping Jacks 1952.jpgJL Scared Stiff 1953.jpgJL The Caddy 1953.jpgJL Money From Home 1953.jpgJL Living It Up 1954.jpgJL 3 Ring Circus 1954.jpgJL Youre Never Too Young 1955.jpgJL Artists and Models 1955.jpgJL Pardners 1956.jpgJL Hollywood or Bust 1956.jpgJL The Delicate Delinquent 1957 theatrical.jpgJL The Sad Sack 1957.jpgJL Rock a Bye Baby 1958.jpgJL The Geisha Boy 1958.jpgJL Dont Give Up the Ship 1959.jpgJL Visit to a Small Planet 1960.jpgJL The Bellboy 1960.jpgJL Cinderfella 1960.jpgJL The Ladies Man 1961.jpgJL The Errand Boy 1961.jpgJL Its Only Money 1962.jpgJL Nutty Professor 1963.jpgJL Its a Mad World 1963.jpgJL Whos Minding the Store 1963.jpgJL The Patsy 1964JL The Disorderly Orderly 1964.jpgJL The Family Jewels 1965.jpgJL Boeing Boeing 1965.jpgJL Three On a Couch 1963.jpgJL Way Way Out 1966.jpgJl The Big Mouth.jpgJL Dont Raise the Bridge 1968.jpgJL Hook Line and Sinker 1969.jpgJL One More Time 1970.jpgJL Which Way to the Front 1970.jpgJL The Day The Clown Cried.jpgJL Hardly Working 1980.jpgJL Slapstick 1982.jpgJL The King of Comedy 1982.jpgJL Cracking Up 1983.jpgJL To Catch a Cop.jpgJL How Did You Get In 1984JL Cookie.jpgJL Mr Saturday Night 1992JL Arizona Dream 1992.jpgJL Funny Bones 1995JL Max Rose 2013.jpgJL Till Luck Do Us Part 2 2016.jpgJL The Trust 2016 theatrical.jpg

The great American comic Jerry Lewis has died. One half of a famed partnership with crooner Dean Martin, in which he played an idiot to the smarter singer, he was a star of TV and radio before they conquered feature films. After working with Frank Tashlin it seemed Lewis found a desire to make films himself. Janet Leigh speaks about the fun weekends she spent at his home shooting slapstick shorts – he would of course become a famed auteur, making very formally dynamic comedies with himself as the star. The greatest of these is probably The Nutty Professor in which he apparently sends up Dino’s image as cooler-than-thou hep singer Buddy Love. In other works like The Bell Boy he creates astonishing tableaux of the kind beloved of the French director and comic Jacques Tati. He would come a cropper with The Day The Clown Cried, a Holocaust film too far which was buried by the studio (he reputedly owned the sole remaining print) but the French embraced him and he even starred in a couple of films in France in the 80s. That was the period when the American audience embraced him again as he starred for Scorsese in The King of Comedy, where he seemed to channel a part of himself that was not visible in his annual charity telethons. His appearances in supporting roles in films like Funny Bones kept him on the big screen but he more or less retired in 1995 until some very recent roles. His persona is indelibly connected with midcentury cinema but his career as director-star is something special. Rest in peace, Jerry, we shall not see your like again.

John Heard 03/07/1945-07/21/2017

Valley Forge.jpgBetween the Lines.jpgFirst Love.jpgOn the Yard.jpgScarlet Letter Heard TVJohn Heard Scarlet Letter.jpgHeart Beat.jpgChilly Scenes of Winter.jpgCutter's Way poster.jpgJohn Heard Cutter colour.jpgCat People remake.jpgWill There Really Be a Morning.jpgCHUD_poster.jpgBest Revenge.jpgToo Scared to Scream.jpgTrip_to_bountiful

Heaven_help_us.jpgOut on a Limb TV series.jpgAfter_Hours_(film)_POSTER.jpgTales from the Darkside.jpgTender is the Night.jpgTrip_to_bountifulMilagro_Beanfield_War_Poster.jpgThe Seventh SignBig.jpgBeaches poster.jpgCross_of_Fire.jpgDeceived_poster.jpgGladiator 1992Mindwalk.gifAwakenings.jpgRadio Flyer.jpgHome Alone movie poster.jpgHome_Alone_2.jpgIn the Line of Fire movie poster.jpgThe Pelican BriefMy Fellow Americans.jpgOne_eight_seven_ver1Snake EyesDesert Blue.jpgAnimal Factory.jpgPerfectMurderVideoPollock.jpgWhite Chicks.jpgThe Chumscrubber.jpgJack and Bobby.jpgTracks.jpgSteel City.jpgGamers.jpgBrothers Three.jpgFormosa Betrayed.jpgSharknado.jpgRunner RunnerSo B It.jpgSearching for Fortune.jpgSopranos title.pngBattlestar_Galactica_intro.jpgCSI_Miami.pngEntourage TV.jpgTheChicagoCodeIntertitle.jpgPrison Break Resurrection.jpgNCIS LA.jpgJohn Heard Seventies.jpgJohn Heard skinny.jpgJohn Heard colour.jpgJohn Heard camera.jpgJohn Heard Cutter.jpgJohn Heard LOGO.jpg

The death has taken place of one of my favourite actors. Apparently he died a few days after having back surgery while recuperating at a hotel in CA. I first saw him and became immediately besotted as a young kid one long ago Valentine’s Day when a film called  Between the Lines was on TV. It was about a bunch of supposed subversives working on an underground newspaper. On the one hand it appealed to my youthful and romantic sense of rebellion. Hell it was a Seventies movie!  On the other? I couldn’t take my eyes off him. Nor could writer/director Joan Micklin Silver, who then cast him again as the lead in her romantic comedy drama Head Over Heels aka Chilly Scenes of Winter – a movie that I didn’t see literally for decades because it never got to the small town where I grew up. In between he had worked for her husband Raphael in a prison movie called On the Yard which I saw many years ago, somehow, somewhere. As well as a TV mini-series adapted from The Scarlet Letter. I didn’t blame Meg Foster for doing what she did, not even a bit.  He was terrific as Jack Kerouac in Heart Beat but I didn’t see that for many years. However it was then I stumbled across the most amazing film of the Eighties after I found a book called Cutter and Bone which is still a beautiful piece of writing about California and corruption and Vietnam and PTSD.  I read it straight through without sleeping once I accidentally found out – book in hand – that my local cinema had the adaptation opening that weekend under the title Cutter’s Way. I saw it the evening I finished the book – I still can’t see a movie if it’s an adaptation without reading the book beforehand – and believed my earlier judgment of the actor to be on the money. And I still believe it. Heard is simply astonishing in a truly great film. He’s a one-eyed impotent crippled Nam vet who has the opportunity to right a wrong. He was working opposite Jeff Bridges and the heartbreaking Lisa Eichhorn. Everyone did their best work right there. He never really fulfilled that early promise and admitted as much in a late interview. He probably never got offered a role to equal it again. He wasn’t ‘seen’ in the right way by the right writer or director, maybe. Although he worked with some good people maybe the chemistry wasn’t right.  Or, he dropped the ball, as he said. Who knows why. Great films are miracles. A trained stage actor, he never ‘got’ Hollywood but he took roles that earned him huge audiences – Home Alone and its sequel being the prime example. It doesn’t matter. Cutter’s Way is one of my very favourite films. Make it one of yours. You only have to be great in one great film to be truly remembered. Vaya con dios, John.

Elsa Martinelli 01/30/1935-07/08/2017

EM The Red and the Black.jpgEM The Indian Fighter.jpgEM Rice Girl.jpgEM Donatella.jpgEM Four Girls in Town.jpegEM Manuela.jpgEM Prisoner of the Volga.jpgEM Bad Girls Don't Cry.jpgEM Wild Cats on the Beach.jpgEM Tunis Top Secret.jpgEM Ciao Ciao Bambina.jpgEM Blood and Roses.jpgEM Captain Blood.jpgEM Love in Rome.jpgEM Pelle Viva.jpgEM La menace.jpgEM Hatari.jpgEM The Pigeon That Took Rome.jpgEM The Trial.jpgEM The VIPs.jpgEM Rampage.jpgEM All About Loving.jpgEM Je vous salue mafia.jpgEM Diamonds Are Brittle.jpgEM The 10th Victim.jpgEM Marco the MagnificentEM How I Learned to Love Women.jpgEM Maroc 7EM The Oldest ProfessionEM Woman Times SevenEM Manon 70.jpgEM The Belle Starr Story.jpgEM Madigans Millions.jpgEM Candy.jpgEM The Pleasure Pit.jpgEM Una sullaltra.jpgEM If Its Tuesday.jpegEM Lamica.jpgEM OSS 117.jpgEM The Lions Share.jpgEM I Am an ESP.jpg

EM Once Upon a Crime.jpgElsa Martinelli Vogue 1965.jpegElsa Martinelli Maroc 7.jpegElsa Martinelli Life cover.jpegElsa Martinelli and baby elephants.jpgElsa Martinelli Vogue 1955Elsa Martinelli make up

One of my favourite women has died. Elsa Martinelli was one of cinema’s real cool girls. Born Elisa Tia in Tuscany, she became a model at a very young age and was spotted by French director Claude Autant-Lara after she had a small role in an Italian anthology film and within a couple of years she did that rite of passage for all italian beauties – a rice film (Mangano and Loren did one too.) Kirk Douglas – who had a taste for fresh flesh – took her to Hollywood for The Indian Fighter but it wasn’t until she played Georgia in Roger Vadim’s perversely wonderful Blood and Roses (1960) (a 20th century update of le Fanu’s Carmilla) that she gained real star status. She had already done amazing work in Mauro Bolognini’s La notte brava (written by Pasolini) so she was by now an auteur favourite.   She played opposite Anthony Perkins in Orson Welles’ underrated interpretation of The Trial (1962) which he shot in Paris and then sent up her own image as Gloria Gritti in The VIPs (1963) – with Welles as the movie mogul to her petulant movie star. Then of course she was the fabulous Dallas in Hatari! (1963) a film that really exhibited her particular brand of Euro cool and of course that haircut framing such a defiantly modern look and determinedly independent character. Never mind that she wound up with John Wayne – just think of all those baby elephants!  That’s one of my desert island movies for sure. That look was what made me pay attention to her as a kid when I spotted her in the extremely bizarre and super fashionable Sixties crime movie Maroc 7 (1967) which was on TV now and then.  She was already out of her troubled marriage into the Roman aristocracy that had produced a daughter and she eventually married the brilliant photographer Willy Rizzo. She also became one of those weird Sixties hybrids – the actor-singer (there were a few of them, like Bardot and Birkin) and if you want to hear some truly mournful and striking chansons you can check her out on YouTube which has some of her TV recordings. She made a really great impression in The Belle Starr Story (1968), a rare western directed by a woman, Lina Wertmuller (who had to make it under a male pseudonym) and continued to appear opposite top Hollywood stars like Dustin Hoffman and even Raquel Welch! In between supporting roles and cameos in Hollywood travelogue comedy movies like If It’s Tuesday This Must Be Belgium and her final screen appearance Once Upon a Crime where she has a small cameo, she was a definite part of the fabled jet set and there are many snaps of her partying with people like Ari Onassis. Latterly she was in a number of TV series, both German and Italian, with her last role in Orgoglio, a period romance which ran for a few years in Italy with Martinelli participating in 2005. Rizzo predeceased her four years ago and she was living in Rome at the time of her death. What a wonderful woman she was.

George A. Romero 02/04/1940-07/16/2017

GAR Night of the Living Dead.jpgGAR Vanillla.gifGAR Season of the Witch.jpgGAR The Crazies.jpgGAR Martin.jpgGAR Dawn of the Dead.jpgGAR Day of the Dead.jpgGAR Knightriders.jpgGAR Creepshow.jpgGAR Monkey Shines.jpgGAR Two Evil Eyes.jpgGAR The Dark Half.jpgGAR Bruiser.jpgGAR Land of the Dead.jpgGAR Diary of the Dead.jpgGAR Survival of the Dead.jpg

The death has taken place of George A. Romero, a true horror auteur whose Night of the Living Dead  (1968) extended the boundaries of the horror movie in some style – political and racial. And it gave zombies a voice!  He began his career as a gofer on the set of North By Northwest – not too shabby an introduction to the world of cinema. It would be another decade until he set the world alight – and he continued to make zombie films in a loosely affiliated series that he was going to continue as late as July 13th last when he released poster art for the forthcoming Road of the Dead, the first of the series he wasn’t going to direct. He had a lot of friends in the horror world, literary and cinematic, because they respected the tone of his films, his originality, his sensibility and his tenacity. He gave Stephen King his first screenwriting job in the anthology Creepshow, a Valentine to all those 50s comics that so influenced American writers and directors. Pittsburgh was of course home to most of his best known works and The Crazies and Martin remain minor classics. He was such an original and such a smart, conscientious filmmaker that it’s hard to qualify his contribution. Legend. Icon. Rest in peace.

Martin Landau 06/20/1928-07/17/2017

ML Mission Impossible TV LogoML Space 1999 title.jpgML Entourage TV title.jpgML Without a Trace.jpgML North by Northwest

ML Cleopatra.jpgML The Hallelujah Trail.jpgML The Greatest Story Ever Told.jpgML Nevada Smith.jpgML They Call Me Mister Tibbs.jpgML Meteor.jpgML Tucker.jpgML Crimes and Misdemeanors.jpgML Sliver.jpgML Intersection.jpgML City Hall.jpgML XFiles.jpgML Rounders.jpgML Ed Tv.jpgML Sleepy Hollow.jpgML The Majestic.jpgML Hollywood Homicide.jpgML City of Ember.jpgML Frankenweenie.jpgML Entourage.jpgML The Last Poker Game.jpgMartin Landau bw.jpg

If you’d asked me when I was a little kid who Martin Landau was I knew him from old reruns and I could have told you he was the man of a million faces Rollin Hand in the TV show Mission:  Impossible and Commander John Koenig in Space: 1999. (Anything with a colon, basically). Then I saw him playing a particularly gay henchman to James Mason in North By Northwest. And I read in a James Dean biography that they were close friends when Landau was at the Actors’ Studio, which he attended after spending a few years as a cartoonist. He was a stalwart of that institution and eventually served on the board as well as training other actors – including Jack Nicholson. Never the showiest of performers, he was a solid supporting man for a very long time, particularly on television. Then suddenly Francis Ford Coppola came a calling with one of his most wonderful and underrated films, Tucker:  The Man and His Dream, and Landau was lifted up once again to where he belonged earning a Golden Globe for his role. He had his breakthrough after 30 years. He became an auteur favourite with a brilliant leading part as a murderous adulterer in Woody Allen’s Crimes and Misdemeanors and then for Tim Burton in the hilarious biography of the world’s worst ever film director, Ed Wood, when he played horror star Bela Lugosi. He found a kinship with the man who had been treated so terribly in Hollywood.  He won an Academy Award and it was a happy collaboration, with Burton getting him to return to other productions. He continued playing steadily in features and even returned happily to TV with memorable parts in Entourage in particular. His last film, fittingly, as leading man, was The Last Poker Game and he attended its release at the Tribeca Festival. He was married for 36 years to Barbara Bain, his Space: 1999 co-star. It was a good life, well lived.

Barry Norman 08/21/1933-06/30/2017

BN Have a Nice DayBN Film Greats.jpgBN And Why Not.jpgBN Hollywood Greats.jpgBN Movie Greats.jpg

Movie criticism on TV died a death in 1998 when the great Barry Norman migrated to Sky following Birtian treatment at the austerity-driven BBC:  his show was screened irrregularly at variable times approaching midnight and after 26 years of nonsense he’d had enough. Frankly, so did myself and his band of dedicated viewers. This, after all, was the world’s only important movie critic on the small screen outside of Roger Ebert in the US and he was treated shambolically. The fact remains that I remember more about his thoughts on any given film released in the 80s and 90s than anything I’ve actually sat through at the cinema in the past ten weeks. Or years. Let’s call it a disintegration of film quality and a hatred for the paying moviegoer, shall we? He was fearless but charming, incisive and fair, witty and wise. Partly that was due to his sardonic disposition and his satirical gifts, but also the facts of his upbringing. His father was a producer and director and his mother an editor, so the stars didn’t faze him because he’d met most of them. He trained in shipping management and was a jobbing journalist, writing everything from gossip to cartoons, bridge columns to leaders. He had a knack for the witty phrase.  From 1972 onwards, and with a brief sabbatical (1982) he was the must-see  movie critic on TV in the BBC’s Film slot, the doyen, the reliable, the guy you trusted. His reports from the Cannes Film Festival were a particular joy. He understood the compromises behind films but he didn’t necessarily trust the business. He had spats with everyone from Robert De Niro to John Wayne but he had a crush on Michelle Pfeiffer. The downgrading of the critic is everywhere visible;  the lack of serious film appreciation on the small screen is not just an appalling vista it’s a telling sign of the general view held by programme controllers that the citizenry are moronic and lacking in discernment. The revolving presenter’s door at BBC’s Film show (on for just a handful of weeks in any given year) and its round-midnight screening time and use of EPK montages instead of actual film clips just shows what they think of us. It’s a bad time for film buffs but it’s been like that for two decades now – horrifying and sad. Barry Norman was Generation X’s critical saviour. And why not?

Michael Bond 01/13/1926-06/27/2017

Paddington TV still.jpgPaddington with Michael Bond.jpgPaddingtonPOSTER.jpgPaddington TV opening image.jpgThe Herbs still.jpg

I’ll never be like other people, but that’s alright, because I’m a bear. The man responsible for most of my first reading and the reason why my life has been dominated by bears of the plush variety has died. The name is Bond. Michael Bond. He wrote the Paddington books and filled my head with the very real possibility that animals were just as interesting as humans and probably a good deal more reasonable. The BBC TV animation was on constant repeat growing up so it became the go-to right before teatime every night and a few years ago there was a (thankfully) wonderful big screen interpretation. He also scripted The Herbs (remember Parsley the Lion?!) for the BBC, the place he had worked as cameraman for a number of years. He finally quit after a decade of successful book sales and created other protagonists for children and adults.  His writing drew on his wartime experiences and his memories of his father, a terribly polite man who always wore a hat. No word on the marmalade though. My own sweet Paddington is quite posh, having arrived via Harrods. He was originally designed by Shirley Clarkson who made the toy for her son Jeremy. With the recent deaths of John Noakes, Brian Cant, and now Bond, it’s looking like I’ll finally have to draw a veil over my childhood. Perhaps. That little bear who remains a hopeful optimist is the best part of all of us. Rest in peace.